21 May 1999 - Friday
Big Ass Voodoo 3 3000 Review 16:33 pm - Wilfred
Not big ass as in big ass... but 18 page big ass review on the Voodoo 3 3000. Well, look it right here at Extreme Hardware.

On the positive side, 3dfx did exceed their original claim of "one card SLI" and through increased clock speeds, actually gave us quite a bit more performance. The 2D is great, if not spectacular, but the 3D engine itself remains a Voodoo through and through and no matter how high you clock it, it is starting to look a little long in the tooth. With a limit of 16-bit rendering, basic AGP support and an effective limit of 16 MB of card memory, the Voodoo3 looks as much like an overclocked Banshee than it does a next-gen 3D card.

Nomad - E3 Impressions 13:32 pm - Wilfred
GameSpot posted their impression on Creative's Nomad when it was demonstrated at E3. Cool, if you got the SBLive! you can emb EAX extensions to your MP3s!

Another great feature of the Nomad is that, through the Music Match and Nomad Manager software bundle, SBLive! and SBLive! Value owners can embed any MP3 song with EAX extensions and upload them to the Nomad. The end result are your favorite MP3s with additional sound effects, like reverb.

HardwarePro's Articles 13:16 pm - Wilfred
The HardwarePro's sent word about their reviews on the Boston Acoustics BA635 speakers and 3dfx's V33k card.

One nice thing about this set is the volume control. Why am I mentioning the volume control? Well many systems have awkward ways (or places) of implementing the volume control. Some place it on the subwoofer, others use digital buttons to control volume. The BA635 uses an analog knob on the right satellite which gives you precise control of the volume. Also, its not one of those knobs that turns endlessly so you have no idea how high the volume is, it turns about 270 degrees and that's it. 

Dual Celeron Myth 08:09 am - Kan
Over at Hardware Central, that's a The Dual Celeron Myth article. So, how good is the dual Celeron rig actually? I must say the Celeries are pretty good.

In an Intel based SMP computer, each processor shares and “swaps” duties to the other processor. Data is loaded into cache, and then any conflicts between the cache must be resolved across the 100MHz system bus. The smaller the cache, the more frequently the processor sits waiting for cache conflict resolution. Testing with WinBench99 ™ does not account for these transactions in the fact that it is not multi-threaded or SMP compiled.

PowerVR Series2 08:06 am - Kan
Noticed 3 new reviews over at SharkyExtreme. The Matrox G400 MAX, the PowerVR Series2 Neon250 in-house preview as well as the Intel Pentium III overclocking guide.

The PowerVR Series 2 technology is, in a nutshell, an enhanced version of the original PowerVR 3D architecture (PCX1 and PCX2 3D graphics chips). The performance increase involved is roughly five times that of a PCX2, with a fill rate of two times PCX2. It's been TWO LONG years since VideoLogic released their last chip. The PCX1 came out in November 1996 when the best CPU one could muster was a Pentium 166MHz (yes even without MMX!) and the PCX2 followed in June 1997. The original architecture caved in due to CPU dependency but with higher performance CPUs now being the norm, that bottleneck has vanished.

Age of Kings Preview 08:03 am - Kan
FiringSquad did another game preview, Age of Kings by Microsoft. This is the sequel to the popular Age of Empires released 2 years ago and the graphics are nice!

Siege weapons are now at believable sizes relative to the infantry. New siege weapons like Trebuchets (must be set up and stationary to fire) and battering rams (immune to archers!) make their appearance in Age of Kings. Ships are also much larger in size than in the first AOE - they're not quite to scale though. Ensemble Designer Ian Fischer explained that in play testing, huge ships proved to be too slow and immobile for practical use. They still look fantastic with their sails billowing in the wind. Remember how one person who took control of the seas could just utterly dominate you?

Matrox Millennium G400 and G400 Max 08:01 am - Kan
Matrox's new bump-mapping stuffs amazes me. Anand did a review on the Millennium G400 and G400 Max. The G400 Max is an upgrade version of the G400 and it comes with 32 MB of RAM and a whopping 360 MHz RAMDAC.

According to Matrox, the technology behind the G400 is very similar to that of the G200, making driver updates easier to maintain across both technologies. Matrox told AnandTech that they are still committed to releasing a full OpenGL ICD for the G200, and if anything, the similarities between the G400 and G200 architecture will allow this to happen even easier. For those of you that thought Matrox would dump support for the G200 just because they have a new flagship, here's a reason to give Matrox a chance (now if Matrox fails to accomplish this, which is highly doubtful, feel free to let 'em have it).

Video Chips Comparison 07:58 am - Kan
Video Chips Comparison roundup over at Hardware Upgrade. This lengthy article includes comparison of the TNT, ATI Rage 128, Voodoo3 and lots of benchmarks between them.

This comparison aims at checking the pros and cons of new products considering the newest technological implementations both hardware and software. The parameters involved are particularly the quality and the quantity of colours offered on the screen. The rendering at 24 or 32 bits has become a reality for the most powerful chipset such as Riva TNT and ATI Rage 128. AGP connection, together with a good amount of local video memory, is normal in more advanced cards. The reproduction of DVD video can be accessed without dedicated cards, even if of course there are some limits depending on the chipset support. DirectX has achieved a good quality allowing better results than with version 5..

HushMail 07:51 am - Kan
Gonna replace Hotmail? According to C|Net, Hushmail debut today. It is a web-based free email service which uses Java applet (I hate this!) to encrypt/decrypt messages on senders' and recipients' computers.

The 1,024-bit encrypted messages cannot be read by anyone else, according to the company. Users also can set up anonymous accounts.

The new product could raise the ire of law enforcement officials, who worry that email with strong cryptography--not to mention cryptography that is free and widely available--could further limit law enforcement's options in communications surveillance.

IBM Ultrastar 9LZX 07:49 am - Kan
SCSI hard disks have always been my favorites. The Sanctum reviewed the IBM Ultrastar 9LZX 9 GB 10,000 RPM drive. I must say this drive is realy FAST after seeing the benchmark results.

The first thing we noticed when running the UltraStar was the stealthy noise it emitted. Even in full out installs we hardly heard a noise from it. Also it's sheer speed was amazing. Even coming from Seagate's speedy Cheetah it was a large difference. Most of it was likely from the difference in buffer cache sizes. The UltraStar packs with a 4MB cache which helps in many different ways. While the drive is performing functions, it can read ahead and keep information stored in the cache, before wasting time in system memory. You can really see this in action, when installing software. Watching the install percent, you can see it jump from say 10% to 14%. This also assists in audio and video i/o, making the Ultrastar good for that role if needed.

Screenshots of 2 Racing Games 07:45 am - Kan
I always have a passion for cars. SystemLogic sent note on 18 high quality shots on Electronic Arts Sports Car GT.

Also, Next-Generation posted screenshots of the Star Wars: Episode One Racer game.

You can choose from among eight drivers and their vehicles, including young Anakin Skywalker. Each vehicle has its own characteristics like traction, turning, acceleration, and top speed. Progressing through the courses accumulates money which can be used to buy upgrades for the vehicle's handling characteristics, adding to the game's playability.

 

20 May 1999 - Thursday
Big Fat TNT2 Comparison 23:51 pm - Wilfred
Yeah, that's what the mail subject was. Dan's Data has got a roundup of 3 TNT2 cards from Leadtek, Diamond and Asus. Visit it!

The TNT-2 has quite a few features which the Voodoo 3 lacks, but which actually don't make a huge amount of difference. 32 bit rendering, for instance, can improve the look of games that use fog and smoke effects, but at the cost of a significant performance hit. If you're into single player, 32 bit rendering on the brutally fast TNT-2 will probably be perfectly acceptably fast at 1024 by 768, or at even higher resolutions. In multiplayer, though, you'll get more frags if you drop to 16 bit. In games like Quake 2 that barely benefit visually from 32 bit rendering, there's no point using it, and Voodoo 3 doesn't lose out at all.

The TNT-2 also supports textures up to 2048 by 2048 pixels in size, versus a mere 256 by 256 for Voodoo 3. This sounds impressive, until you find out that games that actually use textures larger than 128 by 128 are practically unknown, because enormous textures will hopelessly bog even super-fast cards. They eat up texture memory and processing power like nobody's business. Video cards will have to become a lot more powerful before large texture support becomes a useful feature.

E3 Report  23:38 pm - Wilfred
E3 E3 E3. Voodoo Review has put up their E3 report. Didn't go there? Just read many of these kind of reports to get the idea.

Voodoo3 was being shown in around 30% of the booths with nVidia's TNT2 at about 50%. When I asked some key developers what video cards they are recommending their games to be played on, many said TNT2 (more than Voodoo3). This has NOTHING to do with 32-bit rendering! I saw some drop dead games behind closed doors that are so far beyond any game we have seen up to this point and they were running with 16-bit rendering. This convinced me that the whole 32-bit myth is WAY over-hyped. However, TNT2 does have faster Direct3D support and the developers who are designing D3D games seem to really like TNT2. 3dfx is going to have to respond to the "TNT2 threat" by kicking the D3D performance of Voodoo into gear or they are going to loose the massive developer support they've enjoyed for the last couple years.

Voodoo 3 3000 Review 23:38 pm - Wilfred
It's another V33K review to the tally. The boys at GameWire did a review on the popular 3dfx's card. Have a look!

USB Hubs 13:29 pm - Kan
Avault wrote an article on USB Hubs. Anyway, if you are looking for one, take a look at our Generic 4  Port USB hub review.

We expected to simply plug the hub in and be done, but in practice we had to install some drivers into Windows 98. We didn't have to fiddle with I/O addresses, IRQs, ports, or the like, though -- it just worked. We know people who have used USB successfully with Windows 95 (the SR2 version and later), but our recommendation is to run Windows 98 (or better yet Windows 98 Second Edition) if you're going with USB. The software had more time to mature by those versions, and we think you'll find the experience simpler and more reliable.

Videologic Sirocco 3 13:22 pm - Kan
Our pals over at 3DsoundSurge reviewed the expensive Videologic Sirocco 3-piece speakers. Pretty expensive, they cost US$329 bucks.

The slightly wedge-shaped Sirocco satellites are bi-wired and bi-amped. Now many half decent pc speaker satellites have a mid and a high cone in them, but precious few actually have a separate amplifier to drive them. The practical upshot of this is a purer signal. Rather than having the high and mid signal amplified as one and only separated by the crossover once the signal gets to the speaker, a bi-amped system treats the mid and high frequencies to their own amplifiers, and gets the signal directly to the cone it is designed to drive. This means there are actually five discrete amps in the amplifier. The cones themselves are made by Audax, a known name in hi-fi components, and measure in at 4" for the mid and 10mm for the tweeter. And of course, both the satellites and the sub are magnetically shielded.

Seagate Barracuda 18LP 13:20 pm - Kan
Over at Storage Review, the mammoth Seagate Barracuda 18LP hard drive was reviewed. Hmm, it has an average seek time of 6.9 ms and a 1 MB cache.

While the lowering in heat and noise ceilings are commendable, I have to admit to being disappointed that the venerable Barracuda line was unable to displace the WD Enterprise as the premiere 7200rpm SCSI disk. In perspective, however, if the Enterprise didn't exist, the situation thus far in the enterprise-class drive arena would almost mirror last year's results: IBM's drive leading in most categories with Seagate paving a close second. WD's drive does exist, however, and delivers performance exceeding that of the two incumbents'. The Barracuda line features a long, proud, and proven lineage, but the drive to get today when it comes to performance, noise, or heat is still the WD Enterprise 18300.

StarOffice 5.1 11:56 am - Kan
StarOffice 5.1 is out and available for the Solaris, Linux and OS/2 platforms. In my opinion, StarOffice 5.0 is the most bloated software I ever used in Linux. Even Microsoft Office seems much better.

On a side note, RealPlayer G2 for Linux is finally released! You can download them from here.

John Carmack's .plan Update 10:47 am - Wilfred
SMP support in Quake III Arena is soon coming. Whoa! If this is really the trend, you can all go down and grab your dual-processor boxes as well as Windows NT right away!

I finally got around to implementing dual processor acceleration today. I still have a couple issues to resolve and some more rearranging to do, but it is giving 20%+ speedup right now in a worst-case situation for it.

When completed, I expect the average speedup to be in the 40% to 80% range, depending on what is going on and the video configuration. Scenes with lots of dynamic lighting and lots of sounds and other client processing going will show the largest speedups. It helps the slow scenes more than the fast scenes, which is basically what you want.

I am going to shake this out with the Windows (NT) code first, but it should definately make its way to the linux port eventually.

I know SMP is a que for all the BeOS folks to ask about ports, so I'm going to head that off: Be has all the code for Q3 (and Q2, for that matter), and a version of Q3test should be available by the time they ship a release OS with OpenGL hardware acceleration.

Celeron Overclocking Guide 10:38 am - Wilfred
The Sharks came out with an updated Celeron Overclocking Guide. They've got the entire Celeron line covered. Drop by!

Possible Celeron 300 A multiplier settings: 4.5 only
Possible Celeron 333 multiplier settings: 5.0 only
Possible Celeron 366 multiplier settings: 5.5 only
Possible Celeron 400 multiplier settings: 6.0 only
Possible Celeron 433 multiplier settings: 6.5 only
Possible Celeron 466 multiplier settings: 7.0 only

Voodoo3 3000 10:32 am - Kan
More Voodoo3 3000 reviews at Tech Zone. See how they slap a Socket 7 cooler on top of the default heatsink. Wow!

There is no doubt that this is one fast video card. The numbers speaks for themselves. Clocking the card to 190Mhz increase speed all around. The 190Mhz benchmarks gives us a good idea of how fast the Voodoo 3 3500 will be when it ships. I put a big 60x25mm fan on the card's heatsink to do the overclocking test. This fan came off a VEK20 heatsink. The sucker (or should I say blower?) move over 20 cubic feet of air per minute over the heatsink. At 190Mhz, it's rock stable. It'll even run at 200Mhz but I get some visual artifacts at that speed. The only down side to this   is that you will lose 2 PCI slots.

Soyo SY-6IBM 10:29 am - Kan
3DHardware also posted a Soyo SY-6IBM motherboard review. It has onboard ATI Rage128VR as well as a Yamaha YMF740 audio chip.

The board uses Intel’s pretty much standard chipset at the moment, the 440BX, which let’s it house up to 768 Mb or RAM in it’s three DIMM sockets. Not overly generous, but surely enough for any potential buyer of the SY-6IBM. The fact that there is no AGP port has an easy answer in the integrated ATI Rage 128VR graphics (more on that later). The same thing goes for the fourth PCI port, which is occupied by the integrated Yamaha sound chipset. Although I think it’s pretty stingy only to put in three PCI slots and one ISA, as I’ve seen boards with integrated sound having four PCI slots and two ISA. Again, there’s aback side of that issue as well, as Soyo have made the board a very small one. Once can expect their aim with that was to attract builders of very thin systems, who might not even want to add any expansion cards, satisfying themselves with the integrated graphics and sound. For them the SY-6IBM is just a very compact and handy piece of hardware, compliant with the ATX form factor, making it fit for a great plethora of boxes.

Dynamite TNT2 Ultra 10:25 am - Kan
Noticed over at AGN Hardware, a new review on the Hercules Dynamite TNT2 Ultra was posted. The box looks awesome and the card even comes with an onboard chip cooler. Very high quality looking compare to other manufacturers who like to slap those cheap looking heatsinks on top of the TNT2 chipset.

The Dynamite TNT2 Ultra is a high performance graphics card based on NVIDIA’s TNT2 Ultra chip with incredible 3D and 2D graphics performance. On the 2D side the Dynamite TNT2 Ultra promises killer performance thanks to an integrated 300MHz RAMDAC to make sure that you can get the best refresh rates and image quality at the maximum resolutions. On the 3D side of things the combination of a TNT2 Ultra chip and 32MB of 5.5ns SDRAM, are sure to set the latest 3D games on fire with impressive frame rates and image quality. They Dynamite TNT2 Ultra card come in different varieties and prices including a card with TV-Out for $244.99 and a card without TV-Out for $229.99. This places the Dynamite TNT2 right on par with Creative’s TNT2 Ultra card in terms of price.

Cooling Guide Part 1 09:01 am - Kan
I think I'm still drunk *hick*. Anyway, FiringSquad released the Cooling Guide Part 1: The Basics. Do you know good cooling means good airflow movement in your casing?

Establishing good airflow is no science, and just involves the use of common sense. The ATX form factor places the power supply near the CPU, and actually has the power supply's fan blowing over the CPU. This is not always a good thing, as the air flowing through the power supply is not exactly the coolest of air. Typically, you'll want as many fans blowing out of your case as the number of fans blowing into your case. Also, the fans have to be positioned such that the air being circulated is able to get throughout the case, and then exit after it has picked up the heat. Obviously, then the placement of the fans will play a big part in this process.

Hip Hop eJAY 08:57 am - Kan
Rather cute name. SystemLogic done a review on this program called Hip Hop eJAY which is actually a virtual DJ program that has effects like virtual turntable, recording studio and simultaneous 8 track audio board. Sounds interesting!

We have all wanted to be a DJ right?   You start listening to some tunes and you just want to recreate some of them, not to mention create some beats that might be floating around in your head, thinking "My beats are better than that."  Well with our latest review of Voyetra's and PXD Musicsoft's Hip Hop eJay you can.  You have seen the DJ at his turntable scratching the vinyl record making to coolest sound, right?  Well Hip Hop eJay also takes care of this for you.   So get ready to get your groove on, and grab your turntables, cus' Hip Hop eJay is comin' at ya!

Kingpin User-Submitted Benchmarks 08:54 am - Kan
MaximumHardware launched another user-sumbitted benchmark list, the KingPin Real-World benchmark list. So, if you wish to sumbit to their benchmark database, hop in to here.

What It's All About:  I chose the Kingpin demo as the next game to base a benchmark list on since it is based on the ever-so-popular Quake 2 engine (slightly modified), but includes much more detailed textures/bells and whistles.  This makes it more tasking for your PC's video subsystem, which is what most of us are interested in these days (essentially the 3D accelerator and CPU).

Creative 3D Blaster Savage4 08:53 am - Kan
Our pals over at iXBT Hardware finished their review on the Creative 3D Blaster Savage4 card. A massive report on the card performance with lots of benchmarks as well as screenshots.

First, concerning the Intel Pentium III based system. The graphics card Creative 3D Blaster Savage4 generally performed pretty well in API Direct3D, however, the drivers are a bit too raw yet and the multitexturing regime is thoroughly bad. Only 3DMark 99 MAX showed the true worth of multitexturing: the fillrate with multitexturing is almost twice as high as without it. And as for OpenGL support is leaves very much to be desired. Multitexturing support is the key thing about this graphics card, because the top chipset performance directly depends on it, and the drivers do not let the card to fully use the potential of this valuable feature. So, the oversight of S3 company is more than evident. However, it may be kind of consoling that almost all companies launch their new graphics cards with incomplete drivers. Take, for instance, ATI, which is still trying to rectify bilinear filtering of Rage128, and there seems to be no end to it.

Gigabyte GA-BX2000 08:52 am - Kan
Review of the Gigabyte GA-BX2000 Dual Bios motherboard over at High Performance PC Guide. Pretty good against those "flasher" viruses.

The first and probably the most probable case where a DUAL BIOS would be coming into help would be in the event a BIOS Flashing procedure failure. Suppose for a moment that you experiment a power down situation right at the middle of a BIOS flashing procedure, the probability that your BIOS will become useless are so high that in fact we could say that the chance that your newly updated BIOS will be in perfect working condition are almost non existent. However, with the DUAL BIOS feature, you will be able to operate your motherboard no matter what happened by recovering the required data from your backup BIOS, isn't it fantastic...

 

19 May 1999 - Wednesday

Audio Compression 19:16 pm - Wilfred
The Review-Zone has put up an article about Audio Compression. Covers VQF, RA, MP2, MP3 and the newer Microsoft Audio 4.0 standard.

There are many sounds that are beyond the range of human hearing. Compression is achieved by removing this extra information. For example, the human ear loses its sensitivity to sounds which have a frequency higher than 16 kHz, at 20 kHz dropping to almost no sensitivity. It is common practice to consider 22 kHz the upper limit due to technological limitations. It is not only the higher frequency sounds which can be removed from audio to reduce storage space. The human ear also has certain "psycho-acoustic masking" effects. This is just a fancy way of saying that certain sounds block other sounds. For example, a very loud note can block other notes whose frequencies fit certain conditions. This masking effect also occurs over time-after certain sounds, other sounds will be blocked out for a period of time. This is, of course, a gross simplification and there is a lot of research going into this field.

Rockin' System Guide 14:07 pm - Kan
Our Woo Hoos <tm> pals over at ArsTechnica have released a new System Guide for folks looking to build their own computers. They classified the guide into 3 sections: The God Box, The Hot Rod and the Budget Box. Throw me the God Box anytime!

Now, when recommending products, you've got to take two main factors into account: available funds and performance. Some lucky bastards have unlimited funds, some have to pinch every penny. Most of us are somewhere in between. So, when you say something is the "best thing out there", it is important to ask "Best for whom?" In recognition of this fact, our recommendations come in the form of three hypothetical computers. At the top, there's the God Box. This is for the guy who has just won the lottery, or whose company is funding the purchase (same thing). Of course, this doesn't imply adding stuff for the hell of it. Even on this spec, we don't want to be wasting money. It will be, however, generally beyond the range of mere mortals.

New Firmware for 4416 14:05 pm - Kan
Noticed that Yamaha released new firmware for the 4416, bringing it to 1.0g. You can download them from here. What's new include:

  • Solves the problem of CRW drive not being detected or causing the "blue screen" error
    when connecting it to the "narrow" bus of Wide or Ultra2 SCSI card.
  • Tested with Windows 98
  • SCSI cards: Adaptec AHA2940U2W (BIOS 2.11.0, Miniport driver 3.02),
    and AHA2930U (Miniport driver 3.02)
  • Tested with Mac OS 8.5.1 New Mac G3
  • SCSI card: Adaptec AHA2940U2W (BIOS 1.1 Beta 1)

Midtown Midness 14:02 pm - Kan
Wilfred had been coughing too much lately (offers cough syrup). Anyway, if you are a NFS3 fan, you will definitely love FiringSquad's review on Midtown Madness as well.

Midtown Madness, like the other members of the series, is a racing game. But instead of motorcycles or monster trucks, we're racing street cars this time. And like the other madness games, you are not restricted to driving on a fixed track-- anywhere in the level is fair game. The game is set in the city of Chicago, with an accurate portrayal of local landmarks, buildings, and street map. Not "mad" enough for you? Here's where it gets crazy: the city is fully alive during the race! That means working stop lights, pedestrians, cops, traffic lights, and a ton of ambient commuter traffic just minding their own business.

Cirrus Enables Universal DVD Players 12:33 pm - Wilfred
Cirrus Logic has fielded their latest CS4900 chip which will enable DVD players to support PCM, MLP, AC-3, DTS and MPEG audio. As a programmable device, OEMs can include features such as HDCD, Dolby Virtual, surround field processing, bass/treble controls, bass boost and speaker delays. Mouthful...

Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers plan to unveil "universal" DVD players with new audio features as a way to refresh their product lines and distinguish them from cheaper video players from other Asian competitors, according to officials at Cirrus Logic Inc., which has developed an audio decompression engine that targets the new class of players.

Wilfred Coughs 12:21 pm - Wilfred
Caught the evening premier of "8 Millimetres" yesterday. Gosh, I think it sucked. Perhaps I was too tired when I sat at the show, but it was slow, dark, violent, pornographic (it's PG) and disturbing. South Park Rulez!!! Here's 2 more new squeezers I got! =)

Pentium II to Die 10:28 am - Kan
According to an article from The Register, Intel will stop manufacturing Pentium II processors in 6 month time. Gosh, Celerons and Pentium III next.

We have been predicting the demise of the Pentium II for some time now, as Intel shifts its customer base to the Pentium III and introduces Coppermine technology.

But now it is official. Intel has confirmed that the Pentium II will die in six months time, according to wire Asia Pulse.

The news service quotes Intel India director Atul Vijaykar, who said that Pentium II shipments will cease by the end of the year.

Last week, we reported that Paul Otellini, a senior VP at Intel US, said the transition from the Pentium II to the Pentium III was the company's fastest microprocessor transition.

More E3 Goodies 09:50 am - Kan
Over at AGN Hardware, the dudes posted more E3 hardware reviews.

Tyan Tsunami ATX 09:47 am - Kan
Tyan Tsunami motherboard reviewed over at Fresh3D. I always liked Tyan for their server class motherboards with all the U2W SCSI controller, 10/100 Ethernet built onboard, but not their ease of overclocking.

The very first thing I noticed when booting this up was the BIOS (being that it's the first thing you ever really see when booting, this makes perfect sense). Instead of the very popular Award BIOS that is so common amongst motherboard manufacturers for some God-awful reason, Tyan has opted to go with the MUCH nicer AMIBIOS. The main reason I like it better is it cuts the boot-time to nothing. It's just a hell of a lot faster. There's also the MUCH nicer menuing system. If I had my way, all motherboards would have AMIBIOS. Then again, if I had it my way, all motherboards would be Tyan's, but I'm getting ahead of myself now.

SonicVortex2 09:45 am - Kan
Over at 3D Gaming, we have another SonicVortex2 review. Vortex2 vs Live!. Hmm... :)

Installation of the card went smoothly using the drivers that were available on the CD. Included on this CD were Windows 95/98 and Windows NT drivers, and numerous audio demos and some Aureal 3D technology samplers that were quite impressive, both with headphones and 4 speakers. Included is a SonicVortex2 Control Panel, which allows you to configure your MIDI playback (up to 320 voices), A3D support, and Graphic Equaliser (remember it's from England). The positioning of the audio was accurate, although sounds closer to your head than 1 meter, all sounded the same. This is a problem with the 3D algorithms and unfortunately, you will need Sensaura's MacroFX technology for this.

Abit ZM6 09:40 am - Kan
FPS3D did a review on the Abit ZM6 Socket 370 motherboard based on the ZX chipset.

Calm down! I know this is your favorite part. The ZM6 is a rock-solid overclocker! Shipping with CPU-SoftMenu II, the well known BH6/BX6 soft-clock utility (meaning no jumpers), is even better on the ZM6 as it supports a few extra bus speeds not seen on other Abit boards: 105mhz, 110mhz, and 138mhz.

It also comes handy with the new SEL66/100# that can unclock-lock the lock on your clock (crud did I screw that one up!). This will be a problem once Celerons and Pentium II/IIIs start to show up on the 370 platform, with their 100mhz buses locked.

WindowsBlind 0.90 09:38 am - Kan
Hmm, lost track on this one. Anyway, Netigen told us that version 0.90 ,which was mentioned last week but never came to light, is now available for download.

Version 0.90 of the highly touted shell manipulation program has hit the streets with several notable new features -- the most impressive of which are listed below.

  • Animated title bars and layered skins.
  • Special components (like a clock) in title bars.
  • Host of new button display conditions added.
  • Reduced resource consumption.
  • Dock windows to the sides of your desktop.
  • More options added to the configuration dialog.
  • More skins included with new install program.

Screenshots on Q3Test 09:36 am - Kan
Over at DemoNews, Johnny sent note that he has some high quality screenshots of the Q3Test at 32bit colors.

Yamaha 6416SZ 01:35 am - Kan
Kinda late, but Yamaha released the official press release of the new 6 Write/4 Rewrite/16 Read drive. How does 12 minutes/CD sound to you?

The CRW6416SZ's improved performance not only makes for a more powerful storage device, but also provides faster file backup and random-access rewrite. Its 6X write, 4X rewrite and 16X read data transfer rates make it competitive with other high-capacity removable storage devices. Yamaha drives offer RapidLinked(TM) packet writing, allowing users to add files to a CD one at a time, with the drag-and-drop ease of a floppy disk. Because of its standard command set, the new drive works seamlessly with all major CD-RW software. The drive uses affordable, widely available CD-R media for recording at 6X and the increasingly popular 4X certified CD-RW media for rewriting at 4X.

E3 Summary 01:31 am - Kan
Over at FiringSquad, the guys also penned down their thoughts on the E3 event held over at LA Convention Center. What? A Honda Accord Coupe? Damn, I always get carried away when I see cars. Oh, don't ask how much I paid for mine. :(

So as I mentioned before on the message boards, I drove down to LA, but separately from Kenn and soso (Dennis and other members of GX decided on flying down and back). I recently got a new Honda Accord Coupe V6, so I kinda wanted to get it out of the cramped confines of the Bay Area and stretch its legs a bit. Unlike Kenn and soso, I was smart and took the I-5 down to LA, which is a shorter, but less scenic route than the 101, which they took. Made the drive all the way down in one shot without stopping or having to refuel! I took one night to rest up before the big first day at the show!

 

18 May 1999 - Tuesday
SonicVortex2 Review Add-On 23:40 pm - Wilfred
Videologic's PR manager kindly informed us that from 17th May, they will be shipping an extra CD containing the full version of FutureBeat 3D, the only song creation program to use DirectSound to create a 3D stage on which you can place your instruments. I updated the review to reflect this. Check this out!

FutureBeat 3D
I’d like to introduce you to FutureBeat 3D the new 3D audio entertainment package that we are now including with our SonicVortex2 soundcard.

FutureBeat 3D is the first song-creation program to offer the user a full 3D sound-stage via DirectSound 3D. Simply position instruments where you want them. Drums behind, bass to the sides and guitars centre? No problem! Combined with a four speaker surround system (such as VideoLogic’s new Sirocco Crossfire) FutureBeat 3D is a revolution in 3D audio entertainment.

One warning though: this software is ADDICTIVE. If you have a deadline looming then DON’T LOAD IT. To help you avoid spending hours and hours on FutureBeat 3D, missing all your deadlines and losing your job I’ve included a summary below which you can simply cut and paste into your article.

"VideoLogic’s SonicVortex2 also provides one of the best software bundles on the market. As well as the excellent JetAudio media-player (which can play any file you can think of and even download the song titles for your CD’s from the Internet) and the acclaimed Yamaha Softsynth XG (provided in two versions for different CPU requirements) SonicVortex2 now ships with the remarkable FutureBeat 3D.

Written by Polish developer Techland, FutureBeat 3D is a remarkably intuitive song creation suite which lets you build your own tracks out of wave samples (over 450MB on the CD!) Cool features, like the built in drum machine or the ability to sync-trigger samples from keyboard or mouse to build the song in real time, are only the tip of the iceberg. You see FutureBeat 3D is the first song generator to let you place your instruments on a fully 3D soundstage. Just click on a sample to highlight it, then drag the ‘X-marks-the-spot’ icon in the 3D sound-stage window to where you want the instrument to be. We were amazed by how realistic this feature is, especially with a serious four-speaker system like VideoLogic’s Sirocco Crossfire."

Have fun!
David

Geek Walk Report 23:34 pm - Wilfred
Popped down SLS this afternoon and noticed that the Asus V3800 TNT2 had arrived in Singapore. At S$299, the 32Mb TNT2 card comes with a Video-In and TV-Out... plus support for video capture! If you can foot out $360, you'll get the VR-glasses support. Or S$460 for the card + the VR-glasses!

Creative 'Ultra' TNT2 Press Release 23:26 pm - Wilfred
SystemLogic has captured Creative's press release of their 'Ultra' TNT2 card. Hmm.. no news about their core and memory clock speeds. Just for your reading:

"... the 3D Blaster RIVA TNT2 Ultra isn't just about phenomenal acceleration. It also sports one of the most complete 3D rendering engines found on any PC-based accelerator. Critical features like full 32-bit color rendering, multiple textures, and textures as large as 2048x2048, bump-mapping, full-screen anti-aliasing, as well as stencil buffering deliver 3D images so compelling and so real, you'll think they're live!"

Compaq HPC 2015C 23:17 pm - Wilfred
HardOCP has gone a little off their usual line of gadgets and took up a review on Compaq's HPC 2015C. Have a look:

This unit is perfect for someone that can use the luxury of a computer while on the road. It is probably not a unit for someone that HAS to have a unit on the road. It is not going to replace the full-size laptop keyboard or screen at the hotel either, but I sure like being able to put the heavy laptop in my suitcase and check it. Still, having a browser and email in your pocket while having a the ability to edit a Word or Excel file is absolutely great.  I cannot wait till I can package an HPC like this with a cordless remote Internet connection.  

E3 Coverage 21:31 pm - Kan
More E3 coverage from AnandTech. I'll keep this short.

The Voodoo3 core is still clocked at 183MHz. Due to the greater yields at the 183MHz speeds 3dfx needed, SDRAM is now used instead of SGRAM . Despite early review boards having a heatsink/fan, the shipping model will include a monstrous heatsink without a fan. Despite all the changes the 3500 still retails at the original $249 announced months ago.

As for next generation 3dfx technology, they wouldn't tell us much, no matter what we tried. They did tell us that we will see a new core that would be "revolutionary" in the next 12 months, but that does not really tell us much. Clearly, 3dfx would not be wise to release another part without 32-bit rendering. Only time will tell what actually shows up.

E3 Hardware Previews 21:28 pm - Kan
Over at AGN Hardware, that's a massive list of E3 Hardware previews. Check the following out:

K7 Part 2 21:25 pm - Kan
Super7 posted the 2nd installation of the K7 article. Brand prediction, universal x86 decoders and FPU are all discussed down here.

Along with it's 3 FPUs, which we covered in Part One, the K7 provides three integer execution units and address generation units for a total of nine execution units supporting the flow of these decoded MacroOps through the processor generating up to 2.5 instructions executed per cycle - outperforming the rate of 2-2.1 executes by the PIII. To further aid this process, the K7 uses a 15-slot instruction scheduler. This is needed for out of order execution. When an execution unit becomes available, it can be fed with an out of order instruction which eliminates wait states while the preceding instructions finish executing - if, that is, there are no dependencies between the instructions. The K7's integer units also are capable of speculative execution. As with Branch Prediction, the integer unit makes it's "best guess" as to the execution order.

E3 Extravaganza 19:50 pm - Kan
HotHardware sent note on their E3 Extravaganza. Read what they say on the new Microsoft Sidewinder Dual Strike as well as optical mouse.

Microsoft has managed to take digital camera technology and shrink it down to a one chip microprocessor system that actually processes faster than an Intel 386 CPU. With this technology the mouse is able to operate on any surface. The microprocessor calculates the changes in each picture (1500 shots per second) and therefore everything but glass becomes a great mousing surface. Microsoft did try to work out the glass problem but after doing some research decided the single digit percentage of users with glass desks could continue to use mouse pads. Some other interesting features to this mouse were the additions of mouse buttons 4 and 5 on the left hand side above where you rest your thumb when you are gripping the mouse (to prevent mistaken mouse clicks) and a ribbed for your pleasure mouse wheel (I'm kidding about that but it felt so much better then the rubbery mouse wheel we now have available).

Windows NT 4.0 MCSE Study Guide 17:22 pm - Kan
Our dear Dr Evil over at ArsTechnica did a review on this book, and he gave this book 5 out of 5 woo-hoos (boy, I love that sound). So if you are taking the MCSE exams, read what Dr Evil has to say on the book.

MCSE seems to be one of the hot acronyms in the computer world.  Four little letters that, when inserted after your name on a resume, can add up to big bucks. Needless to say, many people are interested in obtaining this magical certification.

But certification takes money; money to take the exams ($100 each last time I checked, and you have to take 6 of them; screw up and it's another $100), and money for whatever you use to get up to speed on the subject matter. That can range from thousand-dollar instructor-led courses to videotapes to a book.

Wild Metal Country 14:32 pm - Kan
Saw this new review up over at Avault. Wild Metal Country is an arcade like shooting game in which you drive tanks around and shooting away. Anyway, I just finished playing Expendable, rather nice game too.

Despite the unparalleled realism of the physics in Wild Metal Country, the selection of vehicles and weapons for you and your mechanical opponents are not at all conventional and make no attempt to replicate accurately anything existing in reality.

Tom's Monday Blurb 14:25 pm - Kan
Your weekly soap opera over at TomsHardware. This time, Tom is still talking about the Q3Test disaster. Hmm...do we care?

I certainly could claim credits for forcing 3Dfx to shell out a better driver only 2 days after the release of Q3test. Unfortunately things didn't continue smoothly. I hadn't published the way I conducted the timedemo-benchmark with Q3test, to keep my time advantage over those websites who hadn't anything better to do than either copying me or who try to amaze their readership with the oh-so-popular anti-Tom postings. This was a procedure, which is common enough and I never had any doubt that I would finally explain how to do the benchmark some two or three days after the article went up. Now it didn't surprise me, that many websites who would have liked to run this benchmark too and who couldn't figure out how, would start to attack the credibility of my results, just as an excuse for not being able to publish those results by themselves.

AMD Cut Prices 09:57 am - Kan
Good news for us consumers. AMD,following Intel's price cut, reduced prices by as much as 45 percent on the AMD K6-III. Meanwhile, they also confirmed that their manufacturing yields have vastly improved.

Analyst reports and AMD representatives also indicated that Intel's May price cuts may not reproduce the events of AMD's disastrous February. At that time, Intel's impending price reductions on Feb. 8 prompted AMD to warn investors on Feb. 4 that the reductions would force AMD's own prices down and cause an operating loss for the first quarter.

But according to analyst Dan Niles of BancBoston Robertson Stephens, San Francisco, AMD's yields since March have "vastly improved," Niles wrote in a report released Monday. An AMD spokeswoman confirmed this, saying that "'vastly improved' seems like a good description."

AMD K7 09:54 am - Kan
Read from The Register that AMD will release 3 variants of the K7, the 500 MHz, the 550 MHz as well as the 600 MHz next month.

A reliable source close to AMD's plans who attended the E3 show last week has confirmed that information we posted about the K7 chipsets is correct.

At the same time he said that AMD was bang on the button for a June release and would come out with 500MHz, 550MHz and 600MHz versions at launch date.

System vendors, however, will be the first to get their hands on the parts, as AMD continues to ramp up its production during the rest of the year.

As reported
here, AMD will use the Irongate chipset for the first few months, while the Taiwanese vendors develop solutions for motherboards.

Ricoh CDRW 09:46 am - Kan
Ricoh CDRW review over at Hardware Upgrade. This is a 4W/4RW/20R drive on a EIDE interface.

Mastering process of CD-R supports didn’t encounter any problem; at the speed of 4x all the copies have been carried successfully; the master allows to create copies in overburning and even with these there has been no problem. This is the same for rewritable supports too which had no problem even at 4x. The good writing performances are also due to the buffer of 2 Mbytes which allows to reduce the risks of buffer underrun. Working temperature during the master phase has always been low, clearly lower than that usually achieved with master at the same speed and this is the same for noise too.

Big Ass Roundup 09:41 am - Kan
Fastgraphics did what they called a Big Ass Roundup of graphics cards. Tested cards include the Voodoo3, Savage4, ATI Rage Fury and the Number Nine SR9.

The Voodoo 3 chipset from 3dfx is not really the third generation of Voodoo Graphics chipsets. A better name would have been Banshee 2, since it's basically the successor of the Banshee chipset. The 128 bits 2D core from the Banshee chipset has been left pretty much unaltered. The big difference between the Voodoo Banshee and the Voodoo 3 is the 3D part. The Banshee chipset had only one pixel rendering pipeline where the Voodoo 3 has 2. Basically the Voodoo 3 chipset is the 2D of Banshee mixed with the 3D of Voodoo 2 SLI. The big advantage over Voodoo2 is the 16 Mb of shared frame / Z buffer memory which allows you to play games up to 1600x1200 which is quite an improvement over the maximum resolution of 1204x768 on the Voodoo II (in SLI).

Encore 6X Dxr3 09:39 am - Kan
Noticed over at 3DHardware that's a new review on the Creative Labs PC-DVD Encore 6X Dxr3 drive.

Dxr stands for DynamicXtendedResolution, and is a picture enhancement technology used by Creative Labs' PC-DVD decoder cards. Whether this is complete BS or not, I can't tell, but the performance of the Dxr3 decoder card is exceptional, giving great picture quality on a standard monitor, and even better quality on a good TV! The playback is constantly smooth at 30 fps, also, the CPU dependency is extremely low, giving you more-than-enough enough CPU power to do other things while watching a movie, although I can't imagine anyone doing so. =) A Windows desktop resolution up to 1600x120 at 32bit and 85Hz is supported, and with the Dxr technology, the decoder card also uses 6-tap filtering and other scaling techniques to eliminate combing and MPEG2 compression artifacts. Although this is technical mumbo-jumbo for many of our readers, the technology implemented works, as no combing or artifacts were detected during playback.

Russian New Year Email Virus 01:23 am - Wilfred
Thanks to a pal for sending this URL. CNN has a report about the 'Russian New Year' virus which infects when a user receives an html email. He doesn't have to open it to be in trouble. Check this:

Russian New Year can be sent via mass mail programs, with the link embedded or as an attachment. Newer browser programs will automatically execute CALL to fetch the embedded document or prepare to open the attachment -- so the e-mail recipient needn't even open the e-mail to get infected.

"Russian New Year gives attackers the ability to deliver any payload they want," said Penny Leavy, Finjan's senior vice president of global marketing. "Your antivirus software won't catch this. Your firewall won't catch this."

More bad news: The attack is difficult to prevent. Microsoft Corp. has patches, but only for Excel 97. If your users are running Excel 95, you must first upgrade them to Office 97, then load service releases 1 and 2, then load the patch -- which pretty much kills the CALL function altogether.

"Until vendors configure Web browsers to not allow embedded Excel CALL functions, this problem really can't be fixed unless you cancel your Excel CALL functions," Winkler said. Unfortunately, "some people ... use the CALL function all the time," he added.

Wilfred Coughs 01:15 am - Wilfred
Haha... got another set of South Park toys today. These softtoys actually vibrates when a latch string is pulled. Cool... =)

nVidia Vanta Review 01:07 am - Wilfred
nVidia Vanta, the low key chip this season which captured the hearts of many OEM makers. Riva3D has scored a review on this chip! Check it out...

NVIDIA designed the Vanta to be a low cost, entry level add-in card or motherboard chip. But the Vanta provides some top-notch features that make it a cut above other manufacturer's offerings. The 4x AGP, DVD and flat panel support ensure an extended OEM life. The Vanta has already met with a great deal of success.

 

17 May 1999 - Monday
Do "Slotkets" Degrade O/C Potential? 18:40 pm - Wilfred
Andy has done some testing on how different slotkets affect the overclocking performance of your CPU. An insight!

It appears that some form of signal degradation is going on. It is worth noting that all the CPU's will run just fine at 464Mhz using 2.0v on any of the Slot1 boards. When higher bus speeds are used, stability goes through the floor. The combination of 112Mhz bus speed, and 370->Slot1 adapters definately seems to decrease stability.

Desktop Theater 5.1 18:32 pm - Wilfred
Hey. It's spelt "Theater" on the box... so lets avoid spelling it "Theatre" anymore. Anyway, GameWire posted a review on the Cambridge SoundWorks DT 5.1 system.

They have to be the best computer speakers I have used so far. Positional audio was great with the four-point surround mode, and the best thing about them is they support Dolby Digital.

Hardware-One: Videologic SonicVortex2 14:46 pm - Wilfred
Bet most of you haven't heard much of Videologic's Vortex2-based soundcard right? Based onAureal’s higher-end superquad design which comes with 4 speakers output as well as an optical S/PDIF port, this well-built card is reviewed right here!

Abit WX6 Press Release 14:30 pm - Wilfred
Just html-ed Abit's press release of their latest WX6 board. Be sure to check out the unveiling of this budget all-in-one board based on Intel's 810 chipset. Featuring onboard audio and video, 1 AMR, 5 PCI slots and a host of other innovations, this will be one value mobo when it hits the streets!

The WX6 has one AMR slot onboard, it is called the Audio/Modem Riser (AMR) slot. The WX6 comes with the Aureal A3D 3D positioning PCI audio controller that supports A3D Interactive & DirectSound 3D games with DirectSound3D acceleration and studio quality 64 voice wavetable, with Sound Blaster and Sound Blaster Pro compatibility.

The WX6 is also among the first to proudly meet the coming PC99 specification. Connectors are color coded to be identified and hooked up easily. Equipped with 5 PCI slots and 2 DIMMs, the WX6 also adds support for the new Ultra DMA66 IDE devices, making the WX6 the most user friendly solution yet.

Red Hat 6.0 First Looks 14:25 pm - Wilfred
CPUReview has done a first looks on Red Hat 6.0. A pretty thorough first looks by any standard. Have a look.

RedHat 6.0 is certainly an appreciable step forward towards the goal of making Linux usable for the "average Joe" on his desktop. Linux has come to the point that if a regular user was given a pre-loaded Linux computer, pre-configured with StarOffice and internet access, he/she would be able to use it instantly. Fortunately the increase in "user friendly" aspect of Linux has not sacrificed the power of the underlying operating system.

Voodoo3 2000 10:01 am - Kan
Super7 did a review on the Voodoo3 2000 AGP graphics card.

As to image quality, the Voodoo3 is quite outstanding. Screen captures, however are hampered as 3dfx has a unique way of converting data in the frame buffer before it's sent to the screen to be displayed. As a result, "unfiltered" data is stored in the frame buffer - and the filtering is performed at scan-out on the way to display. This improves the quality of the picture displayed on the monitor, but doesn't actually change the data in the frame buffer. Typically when you are doing a screen capture, you are just grabbing data directly from the frame buffer, which is "unfiltered" so the quality of raw images captured from the frame buffer is actually lower than what is actually displayed.  3dfx has recommended the use of Hypersnap DX for screen captures but I haven't as yet been happy with the results.   Perhaps in our upcoming V3-3000 review...

Soyo SY-6IZA 09:59 am - Kan
Over at HotHardware, the guys have written a review on the Soyo SY-6IZA motherboard. This is a Socket 370 motherboard with 4 PCI / 1 AGP / 1 ISA slots.

Not a bad set up at all considering you get on board Creative EAX Supported Audio. Although you only get 1 ISA slot, the 4 PCI slots should give you ample room for expansion. 5 PCI would have been a little more spacious but this board's tiny form factor really is nice. Another thing to note is the board's excellent construction with nice heavy duty capacitors supporting the CPU slot. The folks at Soyo really know how to build in the quality. The ATX power connector is ALMOST in the right place. If Soyo only pushed it in a little more towards the CPU socket, I would have been a lot happier when trying to squeeze the ATX power connect down on its mate.

Bleem Review 09:48 am - Kan
Bleem review over at Operation Sports. You know, you must really appreciate the programmers effort as Bleem is written entirely in Assembly. Not much people are coding in it nowadays.

bleem! is a software emulator to use PlayStation Games on Windows95 or Windows98. bleem! requires a Pentium 166Mhz, 16Mb RAM, high-color (16-bit or higher) graphics card, 2X CD-ROM, Windows-compatible sound card, and 1 Mb hard disk space available.

This emulation technology gives PC owners access to the hundreds of high quality games that PlayStation owners have enjoyed for years.

The entire program is written in 100% hand-optimized assembly code. The tedious practice hasn't been used in over a decade, but ensures that bleem! works well on any standard PC computer with Windows95 or Windows98, without requiring additional 3D hardware or accelerators.

SCSI Roundup 09:47 am - Kan
Over at iXBT-Labs, our pals just finished testing 8 SCSI hard disks from IBM and Seagate. Wow, the IBM Ultrastar 9LZX looks like a winner with a 10,000 RPM and 4 MB cache.

This new standard increases the top data transfer rate through SCSI bus up to 80MB/s, as well as the maximal cable length (when connecting a device to a controller), which is now 25m. However, the equipment should meet new requirements. Firstly, when trying to connect non-LVD (i.e. SE - Single Ended) devices to a U2 LVD (Low Voltage Differential) channel, the LVD regime will be disabled and all you'll get instead will be an ordinary Ultra Wide with 40MB/s maximum speed. Secondly, you'll need an external Ultra2 terminator, because Ultra2 devices don't have any internal ones. And neither the passive one, nor the usual active one will replace an Ultra2 terminator (such replacement, as in case with SE devices, will result into a speed reduction). However, most U2 controllers are accompanied by a cable with a required terminator tightly fastened on it.

Alereon.Com 09:45 am - Kan
CPUReview sent note on AMD's new domain: Alereon.com. Now, what does Alereon stands for? The guys over there have some possible meanings for it.

The Register reports that AMD has registered a new name "ALEREON.COM"; and asks for clues from their readers as to what it might mean...

CPUReview has picked up the gauntlet, and I have come up with a list of possible reasons for Alereon.com:

Update: LiveWare 2.0 First Impression 02:08 am - Wilfred
After several rounds of intense gaming, Boon Kiat delivers another blurb on what he thinks of LiveWare 2.0 in the games he played!

The improvements to the 3D audio positioning effects are subtle but discernable and as Ee Siang put it, the rear channels are no longer a muddy "It's behind me" impression, but a more distinct "where behind me"

Diamond Viper 770 & Q3Test 02:05 am - Wilfred
Have a look at Wymun's initial impressions and Q3Test benchmarks of his Diamond Viper 770 card! He achieved a stable 165/200 clock rate! Not bad!

It is interesting to note how overclocking the memory seems to offer pretty significant jumps in frame-rate as compared to overclocking the core. Also, increasing the resolution to 1152 x 864 doesn't seem to drop the frame-rate that badly - so perhaps, I'm seeing a CPU limitation now....

 

16 May 1999 - Sunday

VMware Released 22:35 pm - Kan
I actually spotted this. VMware v1.0 is shipping now. In case you are not aware of, VMware is a virtual platform which allows multiple virtual machines running on a single PC. Imagine running Windows 2000, Windows 98 and Linux simultaneously on your PC. Wow!

Review of LiveWare 2.0 Beta CD 22:15 pm - Wilfred
Ee Siang of Alive! received a beta copy of the LiveWare 2.0 CD from Creative and did a pretty thorough review on it. A must read!

Reverb algorithms has also been enhanced with Live!Ware 2.0. They sound more subtle and natural compared to the overbearing reverb present in EAX 1.0 . For a quick test, whip out your copy of Half-Life and go through the Hazard Course. You should be able to notice that the reverb in pipes and tunnels seems to be "softer" and "gentler". In fact, many users tells me that the general sound engine seems to have gone through an upgrade and the already superb sound quality has stepped up another notch ! A good test for this is the "new" Environmental Effects demo in Live! Experience where you can definitely tell that the FX effects sounds much better than before.

I particularly love the new environment presets, ie, where you can quite convincingly morph female vocals into male with a click of the mouse! Apart from this, there were myriad of other visible and underlying enhancements. I can't wait to get the full CD!

Multitasking With Your Brain 22:00 pm - Wilfred
Scientists located a specific area in the human brain which allows us to 'multitask'. I'm certain there are people who haven't installed a true multitasking OS. =)

If you've ever wondered how people can walk and chew gum at the same time, the answer lies in the anterior parts of the frontal lobes of the brain.

That's where scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in Bethesda, Maryland, say the brain processes complex information that allows humans to do more than one thing at the same time -- what scientists call branching.

"We believe that this finding is important because branching processes appear to play a key role in human cognition," Dr Etienne Koechlin said in a statement.

Branching is a particularly human activity. Other species cannot keep a goal in mind and at the same time switch to another task and then return to what they were originally doing without skipping a beat.

Eh? Reading the last para, doesn't that sound like task-switching? Heheh! So we have it... humans task-switch! I remember DOSSHELL!

LiveWare 2 - Dolby Digital Workaround 21:55 pm - Wilfred
Learnt something new from this posting at Alive! You don't have to wait for Creative's PC-DVD to use the AC-3 passthrough. Check this!

Seems that you do not have to wait for Creative Soft-DVD to use the AC-3 passthru. here's the story from Anton Shabelski....

Those of U who has Cinemaster software dvd player and if you downloaded creative liveware 2.0, you don't have to buy Creative SoftDVD. Go to DVD region selector choes SPDIF Ensonique mode and Dolby Dogital works!!!! Tip: Enable in Creative Mixer "Digital Output Only "

Pentium III 550 MHz 19:41 pm - Kan
Noticed over at SharkyExtreme that they also did a review on the Intel Pentium III 550 Mhz processor. Powerful stuffs.

3DMark99 MAX's benchmark results show tangible benefits from the activation of SSE within both its 3rd person racing game simulation as well as its 1st person shooter routine, both of which measure frames per second over a fixed time period.

The performance gain we recorded ranged from 20% - 35% versus when SSE support was disabled within the same testing conditions at the same CPU MHz level, at multiple resolutions. Be sure to check out the "Synthetic Benchmark Results" graph we've provided in our benchmark section, it gives a good visual idea exactly how powerful SSE can be.

Abit ZM6 19:33 pm - Kan
Been some time since we last heard from Adrian's Rojak pot. Anyway, they are back with a new review on the Abit ZM6. Check it out!

In order to differentiate a low cost processor like the Celeron from its big brother, the Pentium II, Intel specified that the new PPGA Celeron should be used in conjunction with a Socket 370 motherboard based on Intel's 440ZX chipset. A crippled version of the Intel 440LX/BX chipsets, the 440ZX chipset has two speed grades with a bus speed of only 66MHz (440ZX-66) or up to 100MHz (440ZX) and supports only 1 AGP and 4 PCI slots. This is Intel's way of crippling Celeron systems so that they won't compete directly with Pentium II systems.

Banshee/Voodoo3 INF file 19:30 pm - Kan
NT Game Palace emailed us about the two new INF files for the Banshee as well as Voodoo3 on Windows 2000.

Pentium III 550 Mhz 15:51 pm - Kan
Anand just published another review on the Intel Pentium III 550 Mhz processor. Hmm, K7 is suppose to be out next month. We will see which is better when the times come.

The Pentium III 550 carries on the same tradition as the original Pentium III processors. Based on the same 0.25 micron core as the Pentium III 500, the only differences the Pentium III 550 holds over previous releases is the fact that it runs at a fixed 5.5x clock multiplier and makes use of 512KB of L2 cache that is capable of running at 275MHz. Coincidentally, most Pentium III 500 owners will vouch for their processors L2 cache being able to run at above their 250MHz rating, as many 500 owners are running at 560MHz with the L2 cache operating at a hefty 280MHz (the L2 cache operates at half the clock speed).

PalmPilot Overclocking Utility 13:47 pm - Wilfred
Wowzers! Thanks to Beans who sent me the URL. You can find Afterburner on PilotGearHQ, a utility that allows you to overclock your Pilot. Now I wonder what is the frame rate improvement of my RayGin (first person shooter for Palm)?? =)

afterburner.gif (2467 bytes) AfterBurner is an overclocking/ underclocking utility for Pilot. It allows to set the Pilot IIIx or Pilot V speed from 50% to 175% of its normal speed. (131% on older models) This arcade game is too fast for your poor skills? This chess program is too slow at the better levels? You want to decrease power consumption and increase battery life? AfterBurner is for you!

I just tried it. It seem to work boys! Took my 16Mhz Palm III to 25Mhz without any problems. One drawback: You have to use default Mhz when you Hotsync. This is minor when my Tealphone loads up noticeably faster. Above 26Mhz, I see screen artifacts. At the "Fastest" setting my Palm actually froze... (soft-reset puts it back to 16Mhz). Kryotech for PalmPilots? =)

Secrets of High Performance CPUs - Part 5 13:23 pm - Wilfred
Ace's Hardware readied the fifth episode of their "Secrets of High Performance CPUs" article speaking on the developments of Intel's EPIC architecture.

IA-64 is really built for speed. With this instruction set, it will be possible to build CPUs that can feed a lot more execution units than the x86 CPUs of today. EPIC CPUs will execute much more in parallel and perform clock for clock much better than their x86 brothers.

So will Intel's Merced crush its competitors in the high-end market? How will it perform? Does the Merced design have disadvantages?

Poll #13 Results 13:15 pm - Wilfred
Thanks for voting! Here's the results of our thirteenth informal poll about your number of free PCI slots. The alarming truth: the majority (36% of 1979 people) has ZERO free PCI slots! There were also 26 people having MORE than 5 PCI slots free who weren't lying! Chuckle! Oh really!?! =)

Commandos: Beyond The Call Of Duty 13:04 pm - Wilfred
SystemLogic posted a review on Eidos Interactive's Commandos. Looks like a very entertaining game with nice graphics!

One feature of the game that didn't make much sense to me was how only certain people could do certain things. I don't think that every commando should carry a sniper rifle, but every commando should be able to hide a dead body, not just the "Green Beret". Many of these features make the game better though. For instance, the "Sniper", he has a telescopic lense attached to his rifle and can kill people from a long way off.

Mouse Tweak Guide 12:06 pm - Kan
Something hot from the stove is the Mouse Tweak Guide from FPS3D. Yes, do you know you need to maintain that mouse of yours periodically?

We use it everyday. A simple little device that lies on our desktops can easily be a world of fun or a world of agony. Like anything we must take care of our mice and perform regular maintenance so that it stays happy! Ok, enough of that. Many people since first using their PC have never given a thought about their mouse. But since it is such a device that we interface with everyday why should we disregard it? Taking care of your mouse is like changing the oil in your car, of course you have to do it to keep everything running right but you don't have to do it everyday. With a mouse buttons tend to wear out, the ball seems to skip around, mouse pads get all grimy with dirt and debris; these are just some of the things that happen over the course of time.

Ultimate Video Card Resource 11:40 am - Kan
Maximum Hardware did a Ultimate Video Card Resource roundup, telling you "everything you ever wanted to know about video cards but were afraid to ask".

Where the 64-bit and 128-bit cards will really outshine the older 32-bit models is in more intensive tasks, such as in Windows or other GUIs, situations where colour depths of 65K (high colour) or 16.7 million (true colour) colours and resolutions of resolutions of at least 640X480 and often much higher are the norm. And yes, a 128-bit card will logically outperform a 64-bit card in the higher resolution modes, say 800X600 and above, all else being equal of course. Don't forget that just because a card is labeled as 128-bits doesn't mean that it will automatically beat any 64-bit card--it won't. Other issues, most impotantly the chipset, come into play.

Designing Games for Novice Gamers 11:38 am - Kan
How do you design a game for novice gamers? Check out Gamasutra's article on what type of games appeal to these people.

Many games, such as flight simulators and some role-playing games, have a pretty high entrance barrier. Before you can start playing these games, you have to possess a lot of knowledge. Experienced gamers know how these games are supposed to work and only have to learn the specifics of any one game — almost like encountering another dialect of a language you already know.

Novice players, however, will have to read through a manual of 50 or more pages before they can get anything but frustration out of playing the game. Needless to say, novice gamers won’t expend this effort, particularly when they’re not even sure that they’ll enjoy the game in the first place.

Interview 11:36 am - Kan
GameCenter scored an interview with id Software's John Carmack for an in-dept interview on John's favorite topics: 3D graphics accelerators.

GC: Who makes the fastest 3D card today?

J. C.: The fastest 3D card today is the [RIVA] TNT 2. I don't think anybody will even question that. You'd be hard-pressed to find an ATI or a 3dfx engineer who, if you really got them into a corner, wouldn't admit that.

True64 to Share Linux Code 11:35 am - Kan
In an article from IT Week, seems like Compaq wants to incorporate key elements of open source Linux distributions in its True64 Unix and vice versa, hence releasing code from True64 as open source.

Jon Hall, leader of Compaq's Unix Group, said Compaq is porting its compiler suite from Tru64 to Linux, and will ship extended maths libraries under the open source General Public License. But Compaq is also considering adopting the software installation software Red Hat Package Manager, and the Gnome and KDE desktop environments in Tru64 Unix.

Although Compaq supports Common Desktop Environment (CDE), the industry-wide unified Unix desktop agreed several years ago, users are deterred by the cost, said Hall. "The cheapest application you can buy for CDE is $199 and it's ridiculous to pay that for your desktop libraries." Although the move is only at planning stage, Hall said a Gnome distribution is likely. Referring to Ghandi's saying, adopted by Linux fans -- "First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you... then you win" -- Hall said, "Everybody except Microsoft has got past the fighting stage."

Linux 2.3.2 11:34 am - Kan
New version out again. Check the new updates over at Cutting Edge. Now the 2.3.x series are development kernel, try them at your own risk. :)

Bleem 02:21 am - Kan
Alright, you Playstation frantics, Bleem is officially released! Shouldn't waste your time any longer. Here's the download link.

GET UP-TO-DATE - make sure you have the most recent drivers for your 3D card - it really makes a HUGE difference. And if you have a choice between reference drivers from the actual chip manufacturer or the drivers from the company that made your particular card, you're generally better off with the reference drivers.

START CLEAN. No matter how anxious you are to start playing, you should restart your computer and make sure no other apps are running when you launch bleem! for the first time. It's the best way to make the setting adjustments that work best for your system quickly. Running MIRC, Explorer, and who-knows-what-else in the background can cause problems - and you'll have a hard time figuring out if the problem is with bleem!, or another program.

Demolition Racer 01:14 am - Wilfred
CRUS did a short review on Accolade's Demolition Racer. The kind of havoc, mayhem and destruction racing akin to Destruction Derby, Carmeggedon and Midtown Madness where staying on the road is not the real priority.

The game has an incredible 3D driving experience from Pitbull Sydicate, the development team behind the best selling driving games Test Drive 4 & 5. Demolition Racer features a greatly enhanced physics model giving spot on control, the ability to drive and control the car on two wheels, and the wildest driving action available.

Wilfred Coughs 01:08 am - Wilfred
Hoho! Just got home from a pal's home and surprised to find these cute South Park thingies on my desk! Whoopee! Thanks sister! =)

 

15 May 1999 - Saturday
Hackers Wanted 22:01 pm - Kan
Hack into a Voltaire server and you stand a chance to win US$10,000. This event is organized by National Computer Systems and Reed Exhibition Companies. The servers are now up for hacking and you can view the contest rules and regulations over here. Interested?

Dual Processor System 21:46 pm - Kan
Pals over at TheSanctum also sent note on their new review about building a dual processor system. Actually, I better start saving for a dual processor system soon. :)

So when building a dual processor system you know your likely choices are Linux and WinNT. These operating systems can make the best of your multiple CPU's. They also add better security to your network and give your better overall performance. Although they both have good points and bad points, we find Linux to be all around more secure and offer us better performance then NT. The choice is yours though.

Cutting to the chase, dual processor setups aren't aimed at your average user. The limiting price factor though has opened up this sector to more users. Your above and average users might now look into this because of the dropping prices for powerful processors. Intel is also planning to drop prices again in the middle of may.

Rise mP6 21:40 pm - Kan
Our buds over at iXBT just finished their review on the Rise mP6 processor. You probably heard by now Rise is trying to do a clone of the Intel Celeron. Check out how the Rise perform against his brethrens.

Let's specify the features absent by other CPUs, i.e. advanced power management and power reduction. Rise mP6 was initially designed as a notebook processor, that's why everything concerning power consumption was the major point of this project. And the developers really did their best. As a result the processor demands very little power when the internal clock generator is in "off" status. The needed energy is hundred times (!!!) lower than by other x86 processors, available in the market. And in normal working status the CPU can simply turns off the clocks to portions of the processor that are not needed for the current operation, which allows to work even without a cooler! And in order to provide sufficient CPU cooling, one single radiator is more than enough. Rise mP6 processor stays cold!

Interview with "The Doc" 21:39 pm - Kan
Over at HotHardware, the dudes scored an interview with "The Doc" from Overclk.com about their exciting new SlipStream enhancer product for the Voodoo2, Voodoo3 as well as TNT2.

PowerStrip is an interesting product. We take it further though. As I said a moment ago, the Slipstream™ Enhancement Software makes it so simple for the user. You graphically see the changes you are making, eliminating the guesswork. The user can place the overclock setting anywhere they want by moving the slide bar. There is no way to make a mistake in setting any of your registers, and with one button you can return to factory settings. Think you might have clocked too high; tune it down without having to play reset on the registers. It's that simple.

Genesis3D SDK 21:38 pm - Kan
DemoNews emailed us on the release of Genesis3D SDK v1.0.

"Genesis3D is a state of the art 3D graphics engine built for high performance real-time rendering. It offers advanced lighting features, 3D modeling support, seamless soft-skin polygonal characters, and many other innovations. Genesis3D provides the depth and versatility required to produce more than just great games. It is intended for many types of applications including education, business and the Internet."

INF Files for NT 4.0 Glide Drivers 21:35 pm - Kan
Philipp from NT Gaming Palace sent note on the updated INF files which are needed to use the Glide drivers under NT 4.0.

Linux 2.3.1 21:33 pm - Kan
Here we go again. Cutting Edge Linux updated the new changes in Kernel 2.3.1. Apparently,  2.3.1 added USB support as well as more chipsets support. You can grab'em from here.

Liveware 2.0 First Impressions 11:24 am - Wilfred
Boon Kiat just sent me his short report on Creative's Liveware 2.0 update. Not sure if you should attempt the 28mb download? Maybe his comments can help you decide?

In the past, I had a hard time telling sounds which was supposedly directly between the front and rear speakers (either to the right or left of me), ie in position X or Y.

With Liveware 2.0, this is VERY easily detected.. I am really impressed. Even my Denon AC3 amp has problems pinpointing these two positions. Occlusions and obstructions sound the same way they should be.

Tom Updated His Q3Test Benchmarks 10:39 am - Wilfred
Armed with new sets of drivers sent to him for testing, Tom has updated his benchmarks as well as the screenshots of Q3Tests. We see the Savage4 catching up quite a bit with the rest of the pack and the image quality of the V3 improving tremendously with May 12's driver update. Interestingly, Tom also posted his response to 'the rest of the world'.

People come up with all kind of excuses if they cannot stand the truth. So there are several people who don't like the results that I published? Why not making up some rumors to try and make the results look unreliable? The dictatorships in the world have proven that this technique works quite well, so let me send my regards to the people who demagogically doubt the validity of my results as well as to the other Saddams and Milosevics of our wonderful planet.

Tests Cited By Microsoft Proves Flaws 10:11 am - Wilfred
The Register has it again! The challenge issued by Microsoft and their recent PR barrage against the Linux camp drew this article from Linux Today. Here's the spice!

Mindcraft had been employed by Microsoft to conduct a test, and the results showed NT outperforming Linux. This immediately drew accusations that the tests hadn't been set up properly, and didn't provide an accurate representation of Linux's performance. Blunk argues that the PC Week numbers support these accusations. "PC Week" The NetBench numbers tell a similar story. Linux with Samba achieved up to 197Mbps, a significant 73 per cent improvement over Mindcraft's figure of 114Mbps. What's more, drilling deeper into the PC Week article, we find that the NT server achieved a meagre 150Mbps of throughput when tested against WinNT clients. In others words, the Samba/Linux combo outperformed Windows NT server by a very healthy 31 per cent when tested against Microsoft's self-proclaimed business class desktop product. PC Week goes on to state, 'More importantly, Samba had minimal performance degradation at higher client loads. In tests with 60 clients, Windows NT managed only 110M-bps throughput compared with 183Mbps for Samba.'"

The key point Blunk makes is that these numbers effectively blow Microsoft's demand that the Linux community "withdraw their criticisms of the initial Mindcraft report" out of the water. The issue is clouded somewhat by the fact that the ZD benchmarks cited by Microsoft in its challenge are favourable to NT, but Microsoft is clearly going a FUD too far by implying that they agree with the Mindcraft test - they don't.

Final Fantasy VIII Screenshots 10:05 am - Wilfred
GameSpot's E3News page has some eye popping screenshots of the upcoming FF8 for the PC. Patience people... it would not be long.

All You Wanted To Know About 3D Audio 09:44 am - Wilfred
FullOn3D has a very comprehensive article about 3D Audio, with comparisons of the offerings from Creative, Aureal, Sensaura and QSound.

In reality the most successful method to deliver 'positional audio' is to employ some type of four speaker arrangement similar to that used in a quadraphonic set-up. Unfortunately, there are few implementations that employ a true 4-way 3D audio approach with 4-way cross-talk cancellation. Most implementations simply use two independent binaural systems with standard ‘stereo type’ mixing from the front to the rear. Worse still, some only employ a true 3D-audio ‘HRTF’ implementation for the front speakers and combine this with a standard quadraphonic or surround-sound approach for the remaining speakers. The problem with both of these solutions is that the human auditory system is not so easily fooled by the stereo ‘mixing’ technique when used in a ‘front-back’ set-up. This is because the orientation of the listener’s ears will be such that they are placed at 90 degrees to the front-back ‘stereo’ field and this in turn can produce a ‘dead-zone’ to either side of the listener’s head.

Windows 98 Second Edition Review 09:40 am - Wilfred
ActiveWin sent note of their review on Microsoft's Windows 98 SE. So is it worth your money upgrading to this release?

Windows 98 Second Edition includes the latest Year 2000 patches, every other patch that has been released since Windows 98 first shipped (There are a lot of them), A new version of Internet Explorer 5.0, and new versions of several Microsoft services or applications, including NetMeeting, DirectX 6.1, ACPI, 1394, USB, WebTV, VPN services, and standard Windows fonts (that contain the Euro currency symbol). It also adds support for Device Bay and Windows Driver Model modems. The only completely new feature is the Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), which automatically assigns IP addresses to networked Windows computers and lets them share a single Internet connection.

E3 Day 1 Report 05:10 am - Kan
If you are interested in E3 but unable to go there, check out FiringSquad E3 Day 1 Report.

Creative held off on announcing a TNT2 product back at GDC, claiming they were holding off to get a better determination of chip yields from Nvidia. It looks like they found the information they need, and have recently announced the 3D Blaster TNT2 Ultra.

You'll find many of the standard specs here. RivaTNT2 Ultra, 32MB SDRAM with -5 and -5.5ns memory, integrated 300MHz RAMDAC, cooling fan, etc. The core and memory speeds are set at the "vendor-recommended" 150MHz and 183MHz, respectively. This won't be the limit of what the card will be able to do however, as Creative will be actively encouraging the art of overclocking!

Loving Electronic Arts 05:05 am - Kan
Some new rantings over at TomsHardware on Loving Electronic Arts.

Obviously, in highlighting Electronic Arts, I am focusing on the game industry from a North American perspective. Nintendo, Sega, and Sony do not enter into the equation at this stage. Electronic Arts' fiscal year ends on March 31 of each calendar year. This last March was the end of the company's 1999 fiscal year, and once again, the company proved to be the big suit of the game industry. Before I dive into my spouting poems of love for the company, let me explain some of the salient points of the company's results. Growth for the company has been steady, and doesn't seem to be about to abate. Revenue growth has been 28 and 33 per cent per year in the last two fiscal years, and earnings per share have grown 37 and 44 per cent in the same period of time.

K7 Preview 05:02 am - Kan
Over at Super7, the guys previewed the AMD K7. No benchmarks, but just some good old specs of the K7 and the Alpha EV6 Bus architecture.

Implementing the Alpha EV6 bus on the K7 is a radical move for a x86 processor. Until now, x86 processor have generally used a bus protocol whereby the CPU, L2 cache, core logic (chipset) and system memory were all interconnected on circular bus circuit which was reliable and efficient as long as everything was operating at the same frequency. While the clock divider found in VIAs MVP3 super7 chipset worked admirably making it possible to run standard SDRAM in conjunction with the 100MHz front side bus, it nonetheless reduced CPU efficiency as calls for and reads of data from main memory were slightly bottle-necked. The EV6 bus on the other hand can operate efficiently at speeds ranging from 40 to 400MHz as the CPU is essentially taken out of the bus loop and centered between the L2 cache and core logic on a huge data pipeline that in the K7 will operate at 200MHz.

Avision 620C Flatbed Scanner 05:00 am - Kan
Over at Dan's Data, that's a review on the Avision 620C flatbed scanner. This is a parallel port scanner (what? No USB?!) with a 600 DPI optical resolution.

In operation, the 620C is nearly silent, against the noticeable motor noise from the 260C. Because of its parallel interface, the 620C will paralyse your computer while it's scanning. This makes its scan speed fairly important, as you can't do anything but twiddle your thumbs and gaze out of the window while it does its thing. I found the 620C to be about two-thirds the speed of the 260C for both preview and main scans, and its eerie silence made it seem even slower. Fortunately, this still doesn't mean it's very slow; you'll be sitting about for more than a minute and a half if you choose to do a full-bed scan at 300dpi in colour, but most of your scans will be much smaller, and therefore much faster, than that.

Newbie Guide to the CPU 04:58 am - Kan
Speedy3D had a new article up on the Newbie Guide to the CPU. Wanna know what exactly is inside your processor? Open it up and see! :)

On the average CPU about 8.2 million transistors would populate a piece of silicon about the size of a small finger nail. According to Moore's law of computers, the average number of transistors doubles every 18-24 months. On some of Intel's newer Pentium III CPU's they store about 9.5 million transistors on a small piece of silicon. The Pentium pro (the predecessor to the Pentium II) was a monster of a processor. This chip had nearly 15.5 million transistors (on 2 wafers), built using the older .35 micron fabrication process. This was not a good idea because, the larger the fabrication process uses much more power, which creates more heat which in turn can damage a CPU through electromigration.

Problems with LeadTek TNT2 04:43 am - Kan
Kyle sent note on some problems found in the Leadtek TNT2 card with motherboards like the SOYO as well as Chaintech motherboards. Check it all out at HardOCP.

It has been confirmed by all three companies involved that there are some hardware compatibility problems with the Leadtek 320 II series video card.   On some Chaintech mainboards the video card actually does not allow the board to boot, while on the SOYO, the problems don't seem to be as serious, but still MAJOR problems exist.

Leadtek has acknowledged this and should be issuing a press release very soon.  They are extremely concerned with the end users and want to make sure that the customer is taken care of. 

It seems as though some work arounds are almost ready to present to Leadtek owners.  They seem to include either removing resistors or pin taping.  Both to me are very serious issues for the novice hardware buff to handle and seem unacceptable to me, but let's see what actually comes to press.

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